6 Ingredients for Minimal Lovable Products (MLP = MVP)

Great products seem to happen like a perfect storm. They appear out of nowhere and capture our attention. (i.e. the first iPhone, Tesla model S, etc.) They exceed our expectations in just the right way and bam, we are hooked. Basically, we instantly fall in love.

As we know, things like awareness, availability, timing, pricing etc…all contribute to a product’s initial success. However, I want to shine a light on the normally unseen parts that make a product successful, the design.

Behind the scenes, what are the ingredients which make a product lovable? As a product designer, I’m continually asking this question. Instead of thinking “minimal viable product” (MVP), can we start thinking “minimal lovable product” (MLP)? To make a lovable product, is there some sort of magical formula or does luck play a bigger role than we think?

Regardless, successful products do have patterns we can see. As Steve Jobs once said, “Design ends up expressing itself in successive layers of a product or service.” Boiled down, I’ve gathered 6 key ingredients that can help any product stand out and capture the imagination of customers.

1. A Sound Concept

Every successful product has a sound concept at its foundation. What basic human need does the product satisfy? What real world problem does the product solve? These are the simple questions products with a sound concept can easily answer. I have found, simply answering these questions is the beginning to solving them. With a sound concept in place, we can begin to see opportunities to solve the problem in a new or better way.

2. Basic Functionality

Once the problem has been defined, great products simply enabling the shortest path to fulfill it. No need for irrelevant features that de-focus. Only through a radical simplification can we get to the core experience that users really want and need. I have found, an overload of features shows that one doesn’t really know what problem they are trying to solve. Herbert Simon (1978 Nobel Prize winner in Economics) said, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” If we apply this idea to product design, we can see how focus saves us time and energy in the creation process and ensures a more focused product in the end. With a minimal feature mindset, we can then spend our energy on the quality of the other key ingredients of a successful product.

3. No instructions Needed Usability

We have all been there, the worst products leave us feeling frustrated and dumb. While on the other hand, the best products can empower us because they are easy to use. A word of warning, the feelings we have about a product reflect directly back the product’s brand, so getting usability right is critical. We often forget how important basic usability is to the emotional relationship we have with a product. Timothy Prestero said, “There is no such thing as a dumb user…there are only dumb products.”

To make a product easy to use, often we have to build on something familiar and bridge to something new. Bridging the gap between familiar and new is often the design challenge.

The best products are simple and inviting. They entice us to play with them, and by doing so, we can quickly learn how they work. This is my favorite technique to make a product usable, with no instructions needed.

4. Clean Design Language

Design language is where it all comes together. It takes the basic functionality and gives it a form that is easy to use and atheistically pleasing. Dieter Rams said “The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness.” I couldn’t agree more. A clean design language can give important visual hierarchy to a product which is essential for it to feel simple. Also, since humans are so visual, good aesthetics are critical for a product’s quality, personality and memorability.

5. Extra Yet Essential Emotives

Average products stop at ingredient #4, design language, whereas the best products go further. They add a not only a layer, but a soul of human emotion to their product in small yet powerful ways.

I recently bought a power tool that made intangible emotions come out in a very tangible way. The particular shape, placement, and color of the power tool’s handles, made me simply want hold and turn them. Believe it or not, to me this small attention to details added real unpredictable fun and surprise. I could tell by their craftsmanship, they cared how I felt and understood emotion design.

Ingredients like these add up to love and desirability, which in the end is the difference between being just ok, or being a truly great product. I have found these extra yet essential emotive things are what people end up tell their friends about.

The best products take the mundane and make them memorable. Dr. Luke (Lukasz Gottwald -writer producer) said, “for emotional impact we have to understand what matters to people. The formula for mass appeal is simplicity, uniqueness and sexiness.”

6. Clear Captivating Message

When a product satisfies real needs, is easy to use, desirable to look at and touches an emotional chord with users, it begins to sell itself through word of mouth. Most successful products simply restate their value proposition and show their amazing product in action. Their clear and captivating message is simply the product and the message actually align, and that is the beautiful thing.

Yvies Behar said, “Advertising is the price companies pay for being un-original.” What Yvies said might be true but it doesn’t have to be that way.

I believe when a product utilizes all 6 of these key ingredients, magic will happen. That product will stand out in the marketplace and customers will definitely fall in love.

Greg Melander — Principle UX Designer

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